Journal of Population Research

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 89–101 | Cite as

Maternal mortality in South Africa: an update from the 2007 Community Survey

  • Michel GarenneEmail author
  • Robert McCaa
  • Kourtoum Nacro


The 2007 Community Survey conducted in South Africa included questions on maternal deaths in the previous 12 months (pregnancy-related deaths). The Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) was estimated at 702 per 100,000 live births, some 30% more than at the 2001 census. This high level occurred despite a low proportion of maternal deaths (4.3%) among deaths of women aged 15–49 years, which is even lower than the proportion of time spent in the maternal risk period (7.6%). The high level of MMR was due to the astonishingly high level of adult mortality, which increased by 46% since 2001. The main reasons for these excessive levels were HIV/AIDS and external causes of death (accidents and violence). Differentials in MMR were very marked, and similar to those found in 2001 with respect to urban residence, race, province, education, income, and wealth. Provincial levels of MMR correlated primarily with HIV/AIDS prevalence. Maternal mortality defined as ‘pregnancy-related death’ appears no longer as a proper indicator of ‘safe motherhood’ in this situation.


Maternal mortality Pregnancy-related deaths Case definition Census Socio-economic correlate South Africa 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Carla Abouzahr, Dr. Tiziana Leone and Dr. Vincent Fauveau for inviting us to their session at the IUSSP conference in Marrakech and for providing numerous comments, and Prof. Alan Matthews, university of Kwazulu Natal, for editorial comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science & Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michel Garenne
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Robert McCaa
    • 3
    • 4
  • Kourtoum Nacro
    • 5
  1. 1.French Institute for Research and Development (IRD)ParisFrance
  2. 2.Institut PasteurUnité d’Epidémiologie des Maladies EmergentesParisFrance
  3. 3.Minnesota Population CenterUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  4. 4.IPUMS-International projectMinneapolisUSA
  5. 5.United Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA)New YorkUSA

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